Death in Profile is the first book in the Hampstead Murders series, published in 2016 but a “whodunit” reminiscent of the Golden Age.
The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what? Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?
Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.
I must confess, I do have a soft spot for old-school crime fiction, so when I saw this book endorsed by Chris Brookmyre as “Classic Golden Age murder in a contemporary setting,” it was inevitable this book would end up on my reading list. I’m pleased to say Fraser-Sampson delivered all the feels of the old-school and I will be continuing this series.
When five women turn up dead in the Hampstead area, it must be the work of a serial killer. Told in a simple, yet enjoyable manor, we follow London’s CID as they work to solved the case. What I really liked about this case, was everything was believable, it was the case itself, rather than the characters that I enjoyed the most. This is due to the fact that we aren’t given much backstory on any one character in particular, they’re all likable, they all offer something to the story; I enjoyed the quirky banter between characters. When the “famous fictional detective” was introduced, I was in my reading element, I thought it was cleverly done and perhaps the part most reminiscent of the old-school.
I really appreciated the “old-school” feel this book has to it, a police procedural, with a great mystery to solve. While there were no draw-dropping shocking twists, there were plenty of times, Fraser-Sampson had me thinking I knew who the guilt party was – needless to say, I was wrong.
Regarding the love triangle within the team, I’m conflicted. I like the way it was written into the story, it all felt very ‘proper’ and old-fashioned, I’m just not sure how relevant it was to the plot, as a subplot to the main storyline, I felt there was no outcome/fallout from it in the way I hoped, I wonder if it’s going to continue in the next book… while it didn’t detract from my enjoyment, I just didn’t feel that invested in it.
My only real disappointment with the book was the ending. Don’t get me wrong, it flowed and you often find in this style of book, the reveal at the end with the explanation of ‘why’ and ‘how’. And while I wasn’t expecting a shocking twist as we’re misled throughout the entire book, I was expecting a little ‘aha-moment’ when the killer was revealed. It felt more like an ‘oh-is that it’ moment, it fell a little flat, which was a shame as I really enjoyed the first three quarters of this book.
At 271 pages, this is a short, contemporary read, with its style rooted in the Golden Age; despite the ending falling a little short for me, I believe this book can be enjoyed by both fans of classic and modern-day detective fiction novels. If you don’t like your crime too gritty or your characters too disturbing, give this book a read.
*My thanks to the author (Guy Fraser-Sampson) for providing me with a digital copy of this book*